Civic Center Credit: Cesar Robles

Local postpunk label Chicago Research quickly became a locus for bizarre, depraved sounds after launching in February 2019, in part because the people involved are longtime friends as well as like-minded musicians. Industrial surrealists Civic Center put out one of the label’s first releases (a cassette called A Place for the Weak), and all three members also have other bands or projects with music on Chicago Research. Front man Jack Brockman records mutant coldwave as Understudy; bassist Clementine Wink masterminds the psychedelic-leaning Hen of the Woods; and synth player Blake Karlson, who founded the label, makes experimental solo tracks as Lily the Fields (he’s also fronted postpunk trio Product KF, though they’re on hiatus). Karlson says that he and his Civic Center compatriots find it easy to write lots of material, and in their year and a half as a band they’ve released four cassettes and one compilation through Chicago Research. The group’s vinyl debut, The Ground Below, arrives through American Dreams Recordings, a local label founded by experimental musician and Reader contributor Jordan Reyes. (In May he released a cassette of his own on Chicago Research, Broken Sleep, and he’s also a member of Ono, whose new Red Summer came out via American Dreams.) Much of Civic Center’s back catalog sounds the way burning plastic smells during its toxic liquefaction, but The Ground Below dials back their most aggressive inclinations. On “Fly on the Wall,” Civic Center gird Brockman’s restrained, echoing vocals with minimal percussion and austere bass, demonstrating how well they can transmute their haunting affectations into dance music.   v